Faculty: Sujay Kansagra, MD;Judith Owens, MD, MPH;Merrill Wise, MD
Summary: Narcolepsy is a lifelong neurologic disorder characterized by excessive daytime sleepiness and an imbalance in REM mediated sleep-wake physiology. This imbalance may lead to other signs of narcolepsy, including sleep paralysis, hypnogogic hallucinations, and cataplexy. Childhood onset of disease is common, with onset prior to 15 years of age in one-third of patients, and prior to 5 years of age in 5 percent. Despite early onset of symptoms, children often go undiagnosed and untreated for many years, with some studies indicated a median time to diagnosis as long as 10 years. Given the vital period for academic and personal development during childhood, a lack of timely diagnosis and treatment may translate into a lifetime of consequences, including poor academic achievement, obesity, social marginalization, and excessive dependency on caregivers. Clearly, the need to identify children early is vital in order to appropriately diagnose and treat narcolepsy.